By Bill Archer
In spite of the perceived gridlock in Congress, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., said he still believes in the American Dream, and that he and a growing number of other senators are "fed up with the over-reach" of the Environmental Protection Agency and other bureaucratic agencies that appear to be seeking to centralize the control of many businesses.
"It's not just the coal industry that is suffering from bureaucratic overreach," Manchin said during a telephone interview from his office in Washington. "I'm hearing from representatives of the poultry industry, farming and several other industries that are being stymied by increased federal controls."
Manchin and U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., introduced the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act (H.R. 2018) Thursday in the Senate -- the same identical bill that U.S. Reps Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and John Mica, R-Fla., got passed in the House. The bill seeks to return water quality permitting responsibilities back to state authorities.
"We have support for this bill from all sides of the fence," Manchin said. "When the founding fathers established this great country, I don't think they had any idea that coal mining or farms would be regulated from Washington."
In a broader sense, Manchin said that shipping coal -- the nation's most prolific energy source -- overseas as well as jobs, is counter to the American way of life. "It's a sad day for America when we would ship all of our energy and our jobs out of the country," he said. ""This country wasn't built on foreign energy. It was built on the energy we have here at home. We're fighting in the Senate to make sure we use our energy sources here."
Rick Taylor, president of the Pocahontas Coal Association agreed with the idea that states should have the final say on water quality issues. "The state can manage those permits much better on an application by application basis," Taylor said. "It's much better than the cookie-cutter approach of one size fits all from Washington."
Manchin said that in spite of the challenges, he still believes that the system can work. "All we're saying is, wait a minute. If we're not doing the job right, tell us and we'll do it right. Don't just take it out of our hands altogether."